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The Functioning of the Eyes and the Rest of Yourself

By Carl Ginsburg

Paul came to me for lessons complaining of pain in his lower back. What I noticed early on is that in standing and sitting he held himself in a very asymmetrical way with his right shoulder slumped and pulled forward. Paul had told me that he had been a baseball pitcher in high school and college and I assumed, too quickly as it turned out, that this activity was responsible for Paul’s pattern which I also assumed was connected to his experiencing the pain he complained about. Paul also told me that from early childhood he had trouble focusing his eyes together and for distance seeing, he suppressed the vision of his left eye to avoid seeing double images. He could not see in depth as a result. Since I was not very familiar with working with the eyes, I didn’t pay much attention to this part of what he told me.

We did about six lessons in which I had Paul lie in different positions as I tried to help him let go of the tension in his lower right ribs and back and upper left shoulder. He experienced little improvement and I noticed little difference in his pattern, in spite of the lessons privately and those he experienced in my Awareness Through Movement® class. I did not know what to do next. So now I asked him to experience where he put his weight when standing, on the right side or the left. Paul looked at me at this point, sensing my puzzlement, and said, “I won’t be able to get the two sides of my body together until I get my eyes to work together.” This was an eye opener for me. I had ignored what was most important for Paul.

I remembered a lesson that was very effective in getting me to relax my eyes. I had to think now where to start with Paul. Moshe Feldenkrais had impressed on us that when one side is strong and the other side in trouble, the important thing is to support the strong side of the person to help it function better. I chose to have Paul experience the right eye, which he used for seeing.

I sat on one chair with Paul sitting opposite facing me. I asked Paul to look at my face, then close his eyes and keep the image of my face in front of himself. I had him turn his head slowly right and left and keep his eyes toward me while watching my image and feeling his eyes relative to his head movements. Then I asked him to move his head up and down. Both of his eyes softened and his seeing was easier. I now asked him to watch my face with only his right eye. I explained that now I would move him with my hands, turning him so that his body and head moved to the left, and that each time he would shift his gaze from the one side of my face to the other. We tried once with eyes open so that he would get the idea and then with eyes closed. The effect was very quickly apparent. While I was moving him in this way, with each of my movements his left shoulder dropped a little more and his right side lengthened and came even with the left. At the end of the lesson he opened his eyes and was now sitting without his habitual distortion. He looked around and with surprise he said, “I am seeing with both eyes. I can see with depth.”

This experience changed my thinking and way of doing Functional Integration® lessons. I have since explored the function of the eyes, with myself and many clients, always fascinated with the connection to the rest of ourselves.

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